In an attempt to provide safe working environments for all employees, Congress enacted the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”). OSHA’s safety rules apply to all employees – regardless of title. The only people not covered by OSHA are independent contractors and family members on a farm.
Under OSHA, employers are required to eliminate hazards they know, or should know, about. A hazard is not necessarily any potentially unsafe condition. It has to be something that is likely to cause serious injury or death.
A hazard can be an unsafe condition or practice. An example of an unsafe condition would be equipment that is in disrepair. An example of an unsafe practice would be allowing employees to operate a dangerous piece of equipment one-handed when two would more likely prevent serious injury. Employers are required to take reasonable steps find and get rid of hazards.
Employers’ obligations are not limited to the company’s property. If an employer sends its employees off-site to do work, it is required to ensure it is sending its employees to a safe working environment.
OSHA also applies to tools and equipment. Employers must make sure they are working properly and do not pose a risk of serious injury to its employees. In addition, employers need to make sure its employees know how to properly use their tools and equipment.
Employees may file complaints of an unsafe working environment, or other violations, with OSHA. If an employee files an OSHA complaint, his/her employer cannot retaliate against the employee. An employee may also refuse to work if he/she believes there is a risk of injury. Again, employers cannot retaliate if an employee makes this refusal.
If you believe your employer may have violated OSHA, or you have been injured because of an OSHA violation, one of our experienced New York and New Jersey employment law attorneys can help you understand your rights. Please call us at (973) 509-8500 to schedule a consultation.